In 2020 Sarah & Olive starting working with Finca la Torre a brand synonomous with excellence in olive oil. The response has been amazing and I reckon I have shipped this extraordinary oil to almost every county in Ireland.
One of the best olive oils in the world?
Before working together, I got in touch with Finca la Torre to ask if they'd be open to me distributing their oil in Ireland. They were but wanted to meet me first. So, early last year I took a plane to Malaga and visited their estate northwest of Antequera where I met with Víctor Manuel Pérez Serrano, the man behind Finca la Torre. Put simply, he makes some of the best olive oil in the world (IN THE WORLD!!). His legendary Hojiblanca olive oil has won a multitude of awards and accolades not to mention the perfect score of 100/100 from the prestigious Flos Olei olive oil award body several years running. This last one is a really big deal and an honour that has been bestowed on just 2 oils in the whole of Spain.
Víctor was charming, generous and very keen to share his knowledge. I learnt a lot. We tasted his oils which were everything and more I could have expected and what really struck me was just how like wine tasting olive oil tasting is. Finca la Torre’s Hojiblanca has the complexity and balance of a beautifully made red. It’s described as “intensely fruity, with notes of freshly cut grass and olive leaf….bitter, progressively spicy and lingering, with hints of green almond, apple and banana peel”. While this might sound like a lot, Víctor manages to balance all these elements beautifully and everything feels like it's in exactly the right place when you taste it.
"Top of the line olive oil"
He is part of a new wave of producers who have opted to put quality or “top of the line olive oil” as Víctor puts it, rather than quantity, front and centre of everything they do.
Here, tradition is fused with cutting edge thinking and technology. The estate itself dates back to Roman times and there are still columns and remnants of an ancient olive mill dotted around the property which measures 380 hectares. Only 230 of these are dedicated to olive trees. The rest is pastures and woodlands and this diverse ecosystem is the backbone of the company’s approach to production.
Certified Organic and Biodynamic Olive Oil
Finca la Torre’s cultivation is certified organic and biodynamic. The biodynamic approach to farming and cultivation is a method that was introduced by Rudolph Steiner at the beginning of the 20th century. It sees the farm as an integrated living organism made up of interdependent fields, forests, plants, animals, soils, compost, and people. This fosters optimum soil health and fertility and allows animals and plants to coexist with minimum human intervention. At Finca la Torre animals are used to control weeds and add fertilization to the groves along with crushed olive pulp from the mill.
What olive varieties does Finca la Torre grow?
There are a total of 34,000 olive trees made up of ancient olive groves (nearly 10,000 of the trees were planted back in 1840) of the hojiblanca variety along with 100 hectares of intensive olive groves where Hojiblanca, Arbequina, Picudo and Cornicabra olives are grown. As recently as 2019, 6,400 trees were planted on the property.
What is "early harvest" olive oil?
A key part of Finca la Torre's quest for excellence is rooted in the strategy of “early harvesting”. This is exactly what it sounds like – the olives are harvested early, slightly underripe. This gives them their beautiful fresh taste and increases the level of polyphenols in the oil. Polyphenols are the antioxidants that make olive oil such a superfood. However, more is not always more. The olives can’t be harvested too early or the oil will be too astringent and, ultimately, unpalatable. This is where Victor’s artistry meets the science. Deciding exactly when to harvest is one of the most crucial decisions a producer makes and getting this right year after year is Victor’s superpower (or one of them at least).
The company has made massive investments in its facilities in recent years. The mill underwent a huge renovation in 2015 and now has the enormous capacity of between 3 and 5 tonnes per hour. This means that harvesting can be done very quickly which is crucial to ensure uniformity of the oil produced. It also means that the olives don't degrade or get bruised as they wait to be milled. In fact, this process is now so fast that there are no storage facilities for olives as they are cleaned and milled immediately after collection. This is just about as good as it gets in terms of high quality production.
The investment in Finca la Torre's installations and processes has been huge, but what is really beyond value is the passion that Victor and his team bring to the industry. Their objective and focus is always to make the best olive oil in the world and they've succeeeded. Lucky us.